S.F., Bay Area
4 749 000
Population Density (km2):
Population Density (mi2):
12th Largest Metropolitian Area in The United States
2nd Largest Metropolitian Area in California
Avg. Summertime High:
Avg. Summertime Low:
Avg. Wintertime High:
Avg. Wintertime Low:
The Golden Gate Bridge has become a symbol for the city and there's easy access to several viewpoints of the bridge. You can also walk over the bridge if you'd like to. Another symbol of the city is the cable cars that travel up and down the hills. Fisherman's Wharf is an area in the northern part of the city where many tourists stay and here you'll find Pier 39, a very popular tourist attraction. No visit to San Francisco is complete without a tour of the world-famous Alcatraz Prison Island. That and many more can be found in this city which is filled with attractions and sights for a visitor.
United States of America
9 525 067 km2
Ranked 4 out of 195
331 500 000
Ranked 3 out of 235
Ranked 36 out of 194
Population: 6 385 000
New York City
Population: 21 140 000
New York City
Economy & Development:
Human Development Index:
Ranked 17 out of 189
Ranked 28 out of 189
GDP (PPP) Per Capita:
Ranked 15 out of 225
Democracy & Freedom:
Ranked 25 out of 167
83 points out of 100 possible
Ranked 42 out of 180
Ranked 5 out of 162
4th of July
What Is Celebrated On The National Day:
The signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July 1776 where it was declared that the Thirteen Colonies were no longer a subject under the Monarch of Britain (United Kingdom).
Facts & Codes:
Country Calling Code:
Western United States
423 970 km2
Ranked 3 out of 51
39 538 000
Ranked 1 out of 51
Of National Population
Population: 2 397 000
Population: 13 200 000
GDP Per Capita::
Higher than national average
Dry Summer Temperate Climate (Cs)
UTC -8 (PST)
US State Information:
"The Golden State"
Meaning of the Name:
The area that is today San Francisco was named by the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in honor of the Italian Catholic friar "St. Francis of Assisi".
The current Downtown was initially inhabited as a small trading post known as "Yerba Buena" in 1835. It was renamed San Francisco the year after, which had been the name of nearby trading posts since 1776 already.
"San Fran" and "Frisco" are two common nicknames by tourists and people who are not from the city. Both of those nicknames are however disliked by the locals and never used by anyone from San Francisco.
San Franciscan, San Francisqueño (m), San Francisqueña (f)
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco International Airport
20 km / 13 mi (S)
San Mateo County
It's the second busiest airport in California and the seventh busiest in the United States. It is a major hub for traffic between the United States and Asia.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) can take you from the airport to Downtown in 30 minutes. It's the best option if you have a hotel Downtown and don't plan on using a car. If you have a hotel near Fisherman's Wharf, there are unfortunately no good public transportation options. Either take a Taxi or Uber all the way to the Wharf or take the Metro Downtown and then a Taxi/Uber from there to save costs.
Tram / Light Rail
Elevated Rapid Transit
Ride the cable cars once, to get it done. They are not useful as a transportation mode. The same can actually be said about the metro. It's not useful for a tourist when exploring the city. The metro is however very useful for commuters from the suburbs, or if you want to go to Oakland.
San Francisco is best explored on foot! One of few American cities where you don't want to have a car. Be prepared for extreme climbs to get to the top of certain streets. You can't get around it!
Due to the steep elevation, San Francisco can be a challenge from an accessibility point of view.
Cash Or Credit:
Cash is still common in the US, but in recent years cards have become the dominant form of payment and, nowadays, you can survive a trip to the US with only a minor amount of cash in smaller denominations for tips. In 2022 was the first time I was able to go an entire trip to the US without spending a single paper bill.
Good To Know:
Everyone is expecting tips for everything in the United States. It can be a good idea to have some one-dollar bills available, but nowadays it's often possible to give tips on card transactions as well. Only a few years ago that was not the case and even if you paid by card you had to give tip, which was expected, in cash.
What About English?
Other Common Languages:
San Francisco is one of few major cities in the United States where Spanish isn't the major second language. Chinese is by far the most common second language in San Francisco, almost 19% of the city speaks Chinese at home. It's very concentrated in certain areas and groups though, and outside of those environments, you won't get far with only Chinese.
Market Street is five kilometers (3 miles) long, but it's only the Northern end of the street which is the Main Street of San Francisco, this is the part where it goes through Downtown. Market Street is a major public transportation hub, as well as a shopping street. From this street, you can reach many of the landmarks of the city, either directly by foot, or by taking a cable car or the metro. After the pandemic, the street has become quite deserted, along with all of Downtown San Francisco. When people return to the offices it should regain its former glory.
Downtown and the area around Union Square is what is usually called the center of San Francisco, and it is true for business-related travel and in the traditional sense of an American Downtown. It's also where you can find the best shopping and restaurants. For a tourist, the best place to stay could be somewhere closer to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. The area around Fisherman's Wharf is much more family-friendly than Downtown, and here you can also find lots of good restaurants, priced at a tourist level though.
Hyde Street, in Fisherman's Wharf, is the end station for the Powell–Hyde cable car line and the end station at the other end is at Union Square. Meaning that you can take one of the most famous sights of the city to go between the two main areas. I've stayed in both Downtown and Fisherman's Wharf and will probably try to stay near Downtown again next time I am in the city. It felt more like that I was in a large city. Fisherman's Wharf is great for a more relaxed trip where you don't need that city pulse.
There are areas of San Francisco that you should avoid, even during the daytime. The one that you're most probable to find yourself near is The Tenderloin. This area is just West of Union Square, bordered by Geary Street in the North and Market Street in the South. The area has a problem with drugs and crime, and you'll see many homeless people on the streets.
In general though, the homeless won't give you any problems. You'll see them everywhere Downtown, especially around Union Square and Market Street, but they tend to stay to themselves. The area around Union Square and Market Street isn't particularly unsafe and during the day there are plenty of tourists and shoppers in the area. During the evening there are fewer people around. Basic precautions are still enough.
Since it's a financial Downtown, most people in the area are either just working there or visiting during the day. After business hours the area falls quiet, especially now in post-pandemic times. Downtown San Francisco has been hit hard when most people still work from home. It doesn't make the area unsafe, but you might feel that the streets seem empty.
I found no reason to worry while walking around in the areas between Downtown and Fisherman's Wharf during the daytime. San Francisco has a reputation, but the areas to avoid are not where you would normally find yourself stranded as a tourist.
Note: My assumption is of the basis that you will always take normal precautions when you're out traveling, just as you would do at home. Even the safest cities have bad elements and no matter how safe you might feel you must always take basic precautions. I'm always aware of my surroundings when I walk around, both with and without the camera. I am however a very typical tourist and it shows so I am a person that will undoubtedly draw the attention of those who targets tourists. If you can you should of course always try to blend in as much as possible, but with my big camera around my neck, it's impossible. That's two things that are good to know when reading my assessment of how it felt from a safety point of view.
The topography of San Francisco enables some unique photo opportunities for you and your camera. Here's California Street.
As with most of the United States you need to be wary about directly photographing people. San Francisco is however a great place for photographing streets and the urban landscape. The hilly topography offers some unique opportunities to photograph the layers of the city. For architecture there are lots of early-20th centuries victorian houses throughout the city. If you would like to photograph street life I would recommend visiting Chinatown for that purpose. Chinatown is also an area where you can find intriguing murals. Grant Avenue, around Portsmouth Square, is a good start, and then you can stroll aimlessly from there.
- Bring Clothes For Cold Weather
San Francisco is a city with minor variation in temperature between the warmest and coldest months. I've been to San Francisco in July and had to buy a sweater because it was so freezing. I've also been to the city in March and walked around in shorts and a t-shirt. Even if it's California and supposed to be pleasant year-round, bring some clothes for colder weather!
- If You Have A Car: See Golden Gate First Or Last
Driving in San Francisco can be a hassle. If you do have a car, for example, if the trip is part of a California road trip, then the best is to park the car when you arrive and let it be parked until you leave the city. For that reason, it is a good idea to do the sights that are further away and requires a car either first or last, while arriving or leaving. When you first arrive in the city, drive directly to the Golden Gate Bridge and find the viewing spots on the other side of the bridge. Now you won't have to touch your car until it's time to leave.
San Francisco is one of few cities in the United States where the major fast-food chains aren't widely available. In the areas you will likely spend the most time in as a tourist you won't have very many options to choose from and many of the largest chains are not there to be found. There is however a great local chain that you should try - Super Duper Burger!
Super Duper Burgers
Type of Food:
Did I Try:
5 / 5
A San Francisco fast-food chain specializing on higher quality food made from local produce.
Two stores can be found quote near eachother in Downtown. I went to the one on 712 Market Street. I can highly recommend a visit to one of their restaurants!
Type of Food:
Did I Try:
5 / 5
In-N-Out is the most iconic of all chains from California! No trip to California is complete without a stop at one of their restaurants! The menu is short and simple (with a not-so-secret additional menu). The prices are lower than average and it's one of few chains where you can still eat a full meal for around $10. Despite that, they are still able to pay their workers decent salaries.
There's one restaurant in central San Francisco. It is located in Fisherman's Wharf. Unfortunately, there has always been a huge queue every time I've been near it. It doesn't matter what the time is. If you have another stop on your trip to San Francisco I would recommend that you skip In-N-Out in San Francisco and instead eat it at some other location.
Type of Food:
Did I Try:
4 / 5
Del Taco is similar to Taco Bell but found mostly throughout the Southwestern United States. Their menus are often served with fries, which is unusual in the United States but similar to how Taco Bell for example does it Internationally.
Unfortunately, they closed their store in Downtown San Francisco almost ten years ago. You can still found them in the outskirts of the city. I like this chain. It's pretty much the same quality as Taco Bell and has a similar menu. Their sauces are hotter than the ones found in Taco Bell, which is a positive thing.
No Images Available
27 km / 17 mi
How To Get There:
To get there you'll cross the Golden Gate Bridge (so a great opportunity to combine a day trip to Muir Woods with one of the most famous attractions of the city) and then follow US-101 and US-1 North.
Huge Redwood trees! The park is a National Monument and is home to one of few remaining areas with old-growth coast redwood trees in the Bay Area.
Do I Recommend It:
If you have time to spare. I wouldn't consider it one of the must-see attractions of the Bay Area. If you would like to get a break from the city for a while it's the perfect trip. The road to get there is very interesting too.
Below are some day trips that I considered but didn't do for different reasons. They might fit better into your travel plans than they did to mine. I can't vouch for them, but after spending a lot of time researching before each trip the destinations listed below are still places I would like to visit someday and which are within reach of a day trip from here.
67 km / 42 mi
San Jose, home to the mythical Silicon Valley, is actually the largest city in the Bay Area. The city is not as tourist-friendly as San Francisco and there's not that many sights to visit. San Jose is a more typical American city with a small Downtown where people work but rarely lives.
One day I would like to go there. But so far I haven't found the time during my four visits to San Francisco. To get there you can either drive, or take a commuter train for around 90 minutes.
San Francisco is one of those iconic cities which is always brought up when people mention places they want to travel to someday. It's one of the most popular destinations in the United States. I love San Francisco and have always had a great time when I've visited. I've been several times and still feel that I can find new things to do, while still finding it interested to revisit the places I've already been to before. It's not one of those places you visit once, and then you're done with it. You can visit San Francisco an endless amount of times and still find it refreshing.
Do I Recommend You To Visit?
Yes! San Francisco is a city everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It's a unique city with lots of sights and a special vibe.
Will I Come Back Again?
Definitely! I've already been four times.
Weather During My Stay:
The weather forecast was showing cloudy skies and showers. In reality, I had mostly sunny skies, not a drop of rain, and pleasant temperatures around 18 degrees Celcius (64 °F).
I like the topography of the city. It gives the city a unique charm. Chinatown, the largest in the United States, is also an area I find very interesting.
Not As Good:
San Francisco has a problem with drugs and homelessness, and it is visible on the streets. This problem has worsened, especially in the Downtown are, during the pandemic.
The Skyline of San Francisco.
Kearny Street in Downtown, near Market Street.
Union Square is one of the most central points of the city.
Downtown after the Pandemic can feel like a ghost town. This is Market Street on a Sunday morning, but it wasn't more lively on a Monday morning at the same time.
A cable car on its way down the hills of San Francisco.
The Dragon Gate at the entrance of Chinatown.
Iconic California Street!
Typical architecture in San Francisco, with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background.
The hills might look steep in pictures, but I can assure you that they are even steeper in reality.
Oakland Bay Bridge is visible in the background of this view.
Coit Tower is a common sight throughout the cityscape.
Fisherman's Wharf is a great place to stay in. It's the tourism center of San Francisco.
The sea lions near Pier 39 are one popular attraction in this area.
Alcatraz Island, as it is seen from the city and Pier 39.
This entertainment pier is one of the most famous sights San Francisco has to offer.
The Skyline of Downtown San Francisco.
Portsmouth Square, where the original San Francisco was founded.
A picture from Chinatown and the Transamerica Pyramid is seen in the background.
A cable car going down Powell Street.
Union Square - The main square of Downtown San Francisco.
The Painted Ladies to the right with a magnificent view of the Skyline from Alamo Square.
A better view of the Skyline from Alamo Square.
A new cool sight of the city is the Salesforce Park. It's a park that is built on top of a building in Downtown. Check it out! It's free!
Salesforce Tower, which has given the name of the park. It's also the tallest building in San Francisco at 326 m (1 070 ft), surpassing The Transamerica Pyramid in 2018.
The area of Haight-Ashbury was where the hippy culture was born in the Summer of -69.
The corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street.
The Palace of Fine Arts. One of the major sights of San Francisco. I've never found it to be an interesting sight and it's something that can be skipped. I can strongly recommend a visit to nearby Crissy Field instead.
The Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field.